Triangle scarves revisited and birdcall

The last time I knit triangle scarves (5 years ago!), they weren’t quite a thing yet, which is not an entirely unusual phenomenon for me (i knit a highland wool fisherman’s sweater when i was thirteen and people were like, why is that not a billabong hoodie?). So I put them aside for a while and made some hats, scarves, internal organs (what have you) in the interim, and five years (and three ariana grande albums) later, I made this!

Okay, that exclamation point is misleading. Honestly, I’m not in love with it, and I don’t think triangle scarves are any more of a thing now than when I first made them, especially in my current peer group (apparently the trend in medicine is patagonia or wear a literal trash bag to work). But the pattern was gorgeous and the wool was from a yarn store owned by Asians in Mill Valley, and so for those reasons (and also because i wanted an excuse to show off my burgeoning crystal skull collection), I am sharing it here–the last triangle scarf I will ever make.

I am also foregoing images of this scarf on actual people because it was 80F and I love my friends too much to make them don hot af wool and pose for me, so here is more windowsill.

And now onto something I’m more proud of!

Since we met last, I traveled to Baltimore to share one of my stories at a national medical conference, which is probably the farthest from my comfort zone I’ve been since dating men. The trip was fraught with anxiety (and stress diarrhea x1), and I did little else except eat, walk, and worry (my only picture of baltimore other than the one above is of a man i saw getting on the plane with just a starbucks cup full of milk), but the experience of itself was formative and encouraging. It inspired me to write much and share often.

So here is my next piece.

Someone please send me to Baltimore again. Thanks.


Some mornings I hear a birdcall through my bedroom window. It starts up high and then swoops low into a rich, long, warbled pleading. It’s an awkward, anxious interval. Like wide steps in a staircase.

It reminds me of a young couple I met in clinic.

Their daughter had turned one week old.

And they were late.

Dad wore a gingham shirt tucked into canvas brown chinos. His hair, parted and neatly gelled. Mom was in a cotton candy Sherpa jacket and a long dress that partially hid her still-gravid belly. Cora was cradled in her arms, buried in blankets and sucking furiously on a bottle of formula.

They nodded and smiled a lot. So I nodded and smiled a lot, too. The ritual felt familiar, the three of us bobbing away. They declined an interpreter, which was a relief. We only had the one.

Things are good, Dad managed to say. Just, he paused to think, tired.

I doubted they were ‘just’ anything, so I spoke as much as I could—on feeding tips and safe sleep, reflux precautions and how newborn screens worked and what to do about that dry, flaking skin. I commented on Cora’s fading yellow eyes and the pink patch of skin on her neck. I ‘ooh’-ed at her soft belly, visibly nonplussed by the black, cracking umbilical stump. I said reassurance in as many languages as I knew. Though, they were so agreeable, so kind and eager, it felt like they were reassuring me.

Mom started to say something to me but stopped and asked Dad a question instead. Dad turned and asked me. I responded to Dad. Dad said something to Mom. Mom gave me a shy smile, and I felt proud for providing clarity, but ashamed soon after, because something had changed, and I found I could no longer look directly at Mom.

I left the room to collect their papers and when I came back, Cora was crying. Dad was pacing the room, the front of his shirt untucked from rocking her in his arms. He held his head close to hers, right up against that small, screaming mouth, as he soothed her. Except instead of a shushing white noise like dry leaves, he started up high and then swooped low into a rich, long, warbled pleading. He leaned into it, furrowed his brow. It sounded like something escaping. A whine bordering on pleasure. It sounded like my grandmother’s Toisanese, anguished and sonorant. A character in one of her soap operas, maybe. Nurses stopped what they were doing to look in. I shut the door quickly behind me.

But Cora calmed in an instant, and Dad looked up at me, puffed and proud.

I gave him my warmest smile before walking them out.

I never saw them again, but I think of them sometimes, on mornings like these, reminded how close our lives sit to the lives of others. With them it became obvious, the arms-distance that things pass over or slip through, and the temptation to draw nearer still and erase the space across which silence sounds like ignorance, soothing an unctuous moan.

But, of course, it is hardly up to us—we own so little of what we touch. Baby girls and their pleading fathers, pleading fathers and their silent, smiling wives. Like birdcalls. And a world outside, one I can only ever ask to come as close as the other side of my bedroom window.


2 thoughts on “Triangle scarves revisited and birdcall

  1. wonderful piece, again, Dakniellam! to add to your collection of skulls AND to see a potential outlet for some of your most wild and crazy knitting ventures, I hope you get to stop into the American Visionary Museum along the Baltimore harbor. They might proudly display some of your anatomic knitting ventures along side other ‘outsider art’ or voodoo altars, or John Waters word pieces. The gift shop is amazing offshoot of the now-closed Uncle Fun shop along Belmont in Chicago ..
    From Janice B-native Baltimorean although Chicago now.

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